Back to the days of the Barbary Pirates

October 24, 2013
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(Pirates seize two Americans off Nigeria’s coast)
(But in Obamastan they celebrate “iftar dinners just like Thomas Jefferson” 200 years ago)
More on that “historical iftar dinner” below the fold…

Obama again spreads false claim that Thomas Jefferson hosted first Ramadan iftar dinner at White House

by HUGH FITZGERALD August 14, 2012
Obama said during his iftar at the White House on August 10: “As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia — perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.” The State Department retailed the same PC myth last year in this article, “Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar,” July 29. The State announcement quotes Obama saying in 2010: “Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan – making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.”
Longtime Jihad Watch writer Hugh Fitzgerald busted this myth in his piece “Barack Obama, The New York Times, that Iftar Dinner, and the rewriting of history,” which was first published here at Jihad Watch on August 26, 2010. Here it is again:
Barack Obama, The New York Times, that Iftar Dinner, and the rewriting of history
by Hugh Fitzgerald
“The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.” — Barack Obama, speaking on August 14, 2010, at the “Annual Iftar Dinner” at the White House
Really? Is that what happened? Was there a “first known iftar at the White House” given by none other than President Thomas Jefferson for the “first Muslim ambassador to the United States”? That’s what Barack Obama and his dutiful speechwriters told the Muslims in attendance at the 2010 “Annual Iftar Dinner,” knowing full well that the remarks would be published for all to see. Apparently Obama, and those who wrote this speech for him, and others who vetted it, find nothing wrong with attempting to convince Americans, as part of their policy of trying to win Muslim hearts and Muslim minds, that American history itself can be rewritten. A little insidious nunc pro tunc backdating, to rewrite American history. And that rewrite of American history has the goal of convincing Americans, in order to please Muslims, that the United States and Islam, that Americans and Muslims, go way back.
As Obama so unforgettably put it in his Cairo Speech (possibly the most inaccurate, the most cavalier about historical truth, of any speech by any President in American history):
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities — (applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
We could go through those two appalling paragraphs with such historians and keen students of history as Gibbon, John Quincy Adams, Tocqueville, Jacob Burckhardt, and Winston Churchill, but that is for another occasion. We could point out that the highly selective quotation – for example from John Adams, whose views on Islam are falsely implied by quoting such a statement as “the United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims” which was mere pleasing rhetoric, and that phrase “in itself” left open the possibility of other reasons for enmity, including Muslim hostility. Not John Adams himself but his son John Quincy Adams (our most learned President), who was far more knowledgeable about Islam, was to write about that:
The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.
But John Adams himself drew conclusions about Muslims and Islam that were far from favorable. John Adams’ unfavorable view of Islam was obscured and turned on its head by Obama, in quoting that single phrase that was part of negotiations-cum-treaty designed to free American ships and seaman from the ever-present threat of attack by Muslim pirates in North Africa (known to history as the Barbary Pirates). John Adams’ unfavorable view of Islam was shared by all those who, in the young Republic, had any dealings at all with Muslim envoys. Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the Qur’an in his library not because he was an admirer of that book, or the faith of Islam, but because he was both curious and cultivated. Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison used Jefferson’s own copy of the Qur’an. Yet that copy, since it was translated into English by George Sale, has for most devout Muslims no validity whatsoever, for the Qur’an must be read and understood in Arabic. A Qur’an in a language other than Arabic cannot even be called the “Holy Qur’an,” though apparently Obama, and his speechwriters, did not know this, in their fulsome description of Jefferson’s copy of the Sale translation that was appropriated by Representative Ellison for his own crude and transparent political ploy. Obama wrongly refers to Sales’ version as the “Holy Qur’an,” and every Muslim at that dinner knew such a book could not possibly be called that. A small mistake, but then there are so many mistakes, and Obama and his speechwriters are so eager to please, and yet so ignorant withal, that these mistakes add up.
There is not a single American statesman or traveler or diplomat in the days of the early Republic who had a good word for Islam. Look high, look low, consult whatever you want in the National Archives or the Library of Congress, and you will not find any such testimony. And the very idea that someday Muslims, adherents of the fanatical faith of Islam, would be here and would dare to invoke the Freedom of Conscience that is guaranteed by our First Amendment, through both the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, would have struck them as impossible. For everyone knew then, as so many now apparently do not know, that Islam itself inculcates not freedom of conscience, but blind, unquestioning submission of the individual Muslim to Authority, that is, the Authority of the Qur’an, as glossed by the Sunnah, and the Authority of the Shari’a, the Holy Law of Islam to which all Muslim law codes are supposed to aspire and, ideally, to be modeled on, the Holy Law which embodies, in codified form, the texts and tenets and attitudes of Islam. This, too, Barack Obama and his speechwriters, and such people as John Brennan, Deputy Special Assistant For Homeland Security and Terrorism to the President, apparently do not know.
But let’s return to that assertion about Jefferson’s “Iftar Dinner,” or rather, to that dinner that Barack Obama would have us all believe was the first “Iftar Dinner” at the White House way back in 1805. What actually happened was this.
The American navy, fed up with the constant depredations by Muslim corsairs, who were not so much pirates as Muslims who were encouraged to prey on Christian shipping, and who at times even recorded the areas of the Mediterranean where they planned to go in search of Christian prey, seized a ship that belonged to those who were ruled by the Bey of Tunis. And the Bey of Tunis wanted that ship back. He sent to Washington, for six months, a temporary envoy, one Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who was not, pace Obama, “the first Muslim ambassador to the United States,” but, rather, a temporary envoy.
Here, from the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, is a bit of the background to the story:
The crisis with Tunis erupted when the USS Constitution captured Tunisian vessels attempting to run the American blockade of Tripoli. The bey of Tunis threatened war and sent Mellimelli to the United States to negotiate full restitution for the captured vessels and to barter for tribute.The backdrop to this state visit was the ongoing conflict between the United States and the Barbary states, autonomous provinces of the Ottoman Empire that rimmed the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Soon after the Revolutionary War and the consequent loss of the British navy’s protection, American merchant vessels had become prey for Barbary corsairs. Jefferson was outraged by the demands of ransom for civilians captured from American vessels and the Barbary states’ expectation of annual tribute to be paid as insurance against future seizures. He took an uncharacteristically hawkish position against the prevailing thought that it was cheaper to pay tribute than maintain a navy to protect shipping from piracy.
Jefferson balked at paying tribute but accepted the expectation that the host government would cover all expenses for such an emissary. He arranged for Mellimelli and his 11 attendants to be housed at a Washington hotel, and rationalized that the sale of the four horses and other fine gifts sent by the bey of Tunis would cover costs. Mellimelli’s request for “concubines” as a part of his accommodations was left to Secretary of State James Madison. Jefferson assured one senator that obtaining peace with the Barbary powers was important enough to “pass unnoticed the irregular conduct of their ministers.”
Despite whispers regarding his conduct, Mellimelli received invitations to numerous dinners and balls, and according to one Washington hostess was “the lion of the season.” At the president’s New Year’s Day levee the Tunisian envoy provided “its most brilliant and splendid spectacle,” and added to his melodramatic image at a later dinner party hosted by the secretary of state. Upon learning that the Madisons were unhappy at being childless, Mellimelli flung his “magical” cloak around Dolley Madison and murmured an incantation that promised she would bear a male child. His conjuring, however, did not work.
Differences in culture and customs stirred interest on both sides. Mellimelli’s generous use of scented rose oil was noted by many of those who met him, and guards had to be posted outside his lodgings to turn away the curious. For his part, the Tunisian was surprised at the social freedom women enjoyed in America and was especially intrigued by several delegations of Native Americans from the western territories then visiting Washington. Mellimelli inquired which prophet the Indians followed: Moses, Jesus Christ or Mohammed. When he was told none of them, that they worshiped “the Great Sprit” alone, he was reported to have pronounced them “vile hereticks.”
So that’s it. Sidi Soliman Mellimelli installed himself for six months at a Washington hotel, for which the American government apparently picked up the tab. And as to that request for “concubines,” apparently Jefferson asked the Secretary of State, James Madison, to attend to the matter. It’s amusing to note how little the behavior of Muslim and Arab rulers has changed. It is only we who do not see them, or allow ourselves to see them, as primitive and exotic creatures to be amused by or often contemptuous of, but not as creatures to whom we need accord any undo respect, for their sole claim on our attention is that some of them, through an accident of geology, have acquired a lot of money. And there are people in Washington who are happy, in their desire to do well themselves, to convince the American government that it must bend over backwards in treating of Arabs and Muslims. There is no need to do so, and it is easy to show why not. In fact, the description of Mellimelli’s requests may put many in mind of how so many Muslim and Arab rulers, including “plucky little king” Hussein of Jordan, when they used to come to Washington, would have round-the-clock escort girls service them in their hotel rooms. But what was most maddening was that the bills were paid by the ever-compliant C.I.A. I presume the oil money has made that, in some cases, no longer necessary.
Sidi Soliman Mellimelli was quite an exotic specimen:
The curious were not to be disappointed by the appearance of the first Muslim envoy to the United States – a large figure with a full dark beard dressed in robes of richly embroidered fabrics and a turban of fine white muslin.Over the next six months, this exotic representative from a distant and unfamiliar culture would add spice to the Washington social season but also test the diplomatic abilities of President Jefferson.
During the six solar months Mellimelli was here, the lunar month of Ramadan occurred. And as it happens, during that Ramadan observed by Mellimelli, but naturally unobserved, hardly noticed, by the Americans, President Jefferson invited Sidi Soliman Mellimelli for dinner at the White House. He probably during that six-month period had done it more than once. Mellimelli replied that he could not come at the appointed hour of three thirty in the afternoon (our ancestors rose much earlier, and ate much earlier, and went to bed much earlier, in the pre-Edison days of their existence). That time fell, for him, but not for Thomas Jefferson or anyone else in the United States of America, during the fasting period of the month of Ramadan. He replied that he could not come at the hour set, that is, at half-past three, but only after sundown.
Jefferson, a courteous man, simply moved the dinner forward by a few hours. He didn’t change the menu, he didn’t change anything else. And moving the dinner forward by a few hours hardly turns that dinner into a soi-disant “Iftar Dinner.” Barack Obama’s trying to do so, trying that is, to rewrite American history, with some nunc-pro-tunc backdating, in order to flatter or please his Muslim guests, is false. And, being false, is also disgusting. It is disgusting for an American President to misrepresent American history to Americans, including all the schoolchildren who are now being subject to all kinds of Islamic propaganda, cunningly woven into the newly-mandated textbooks, that so favorably misrepresent Islam, as here.
Now there is a kind of coda to this dismal tale, and it is provided by the New York Times, which likes to put on airs and think of itself as “the newspaper of record,” whatever that means. The Times carried a front-page story on August 14, 2010, written by one Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and no doubt gone over by many vigilant editors. This story contains a predictably glowing account of Barack Obama’s remarks at the “Annual Iftar Dinner.” Here is the paragraph that caught my eye:
In hosting the iftar, Mr. Obama was following a White House tradition that, while sporadic, dates to Thomas Jefferson, who held a sunset dinner for the first Muslim ambassador to the United States. President George W. Bush hosted iftars annually.
Question for Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and for her editors at The New York Times: You report that there is a “White Hosue tradition that, while sporadic, dates to Thomas Jefferson.” I claim that you are wrong. I claim that there is no White House Tradition at all about Iftar Dinners. I claim that Thomas Jefferson, in moving forward by a few hours a dinner that changed in no other respect, for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, was not providing the first of the “Annual Iftar Dinners” that, the New York Times tells us, has since Jefferson’s non-existent “Iftar Dinner,” have been observed “sporadically.”
When, then, was the next in this long, but “sporadic” series of iftar dinners? I can find no record of any, for roughly the next two hundred years, until we come to the fall of the year 2001, that is, just after the deadliest attack on American civilians ever recorded, an attack carried out by a novemdectet of Muslims acting according to their understanding of the very same texts — Qur’an,Hadith, Sira — that all Muslims read, an understanding that many have demonstrated since that they share, not least in the spontaneous celebrations that were immediately held in Cairo, and Riyadh, and Jeddah, and in Ramallah, and Gaza, and Damascus, and Baghdad, and all over the place, where Muslims felt that they had won a victory over those accursed kuffar, those ingrates, those Infidels. And it was President George Bush who decided that, to win Muslim “trust” or to end Muslim “mistrust” — I forget which — so that we could, non-Muslim and Muslim, collaborate on defeating those “violent extremists” who had “hijacked a great religion,” started this sporadic ball unsporadically rolling. And he did it, by golly, he did. He hosted an Iftar Dinner with all the fixins. It was held just the month after the attacks prompted by Islamic texts and tenets and attitudes on the World Trade Center, on the Pentagon, on a plane’s doomed pilots and passengers over a field in Pennsylvania.
And thus it is, that ever since 2001, we have had iftar dinner after iftar dinner. But it was not Jefferson or any other of our cultivated and learned Presidents, who started this “tradition” that has been observed only “sporadically” — i.e., never — until George Bush came along, unless we are to count as an “iftar dinner” what was merely seen, by Jefferson, as a dinner given at a time convenient for his not-too-honored guest.
Yes, and how splendidly Bush, and now Obama, have proven to Muslims that there are no hard feelings. Do you think the three trillion dollars spent in Iraq and now in Afghanistan (not counting the hundreds of billions that, over time, have gone to Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, even the “Palestinian” territories), have done that? It has all been designed to improve the lot of Muslims on the unproven assumption that this will make them less attentive to the texts, the ideology, of their Total Belief-System, and hence more willing to grandly concede to us Infidels a territory of our own, a place in the sun of our own. Yes, George Bush, that profound student of history and of ideas, kept telling us, in those first few months after 9/11/2001, that as far as he was concerned, by gum, Islam was a religion of “peace and tolerance.” And just to prove it, by golly, he’d put on an Iftar Dinner with all the fixins. And that’s just what he did. And that’s how the “tradition” that Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and her many vetting editors at the newspaper of comical record, The New York Times, began. It’s all of nine years old, through the disastrous presidencies of Bush and now of Obama.
And stop rewriting history, in ways little and big, about the American “connection” to Islam – including that absurd attempt on the front page of The New York Times just yesterday, to run a story on Christians from the Middle East, fleeing Islam and Muslims for the United States (as they fled, too, to South America, or to Australia) and appropriating the history of Arabic-speaking Maronite and Orthodox immigrants in that story on “Little Syria” to make American readers think that “see, Arabs, Muslim Arabs, go a long way back in New York City, so let’s not get so hot and bothered about a little mosque someone wants to build.” Was there ever such deceit, day after day, than in the way The New York Times has become a willing collaborator with the O.I.C., and others who want nonstop Mister Feelgood stories about Islam in America?

Why Don’t People Get It About Jefferson and Slavery?

December 2, 2012

(volokh.com) We seem to have once again entered a period in which we will be subject to more Jefferson-the-Perpetuator-of-Slavery bashing – witness the rather appalling Op-Ed piece in today’s NYT by Paul Finkelman on “The Monster of Monticello.” The founding generation, Finkelman writes, helped perpetuate a “treason against the hopes of the world,” by “fail[ing] to place the nation on the road to liberty for all,” and “no one bore a greater responsibility for that failure than the master of Monticello.”

Media_http1bpblogspot_hjysfThis is truly outrageous and pernicious and a-historical nonsense. The truth is that few people in human history did more, over the course of a lifetime, to “place the road on the road to liberty for all” — and indeed, to eliminate human slavery from the civilized world — than Jefferson. Don’t take my word for it – take Lincoln’s (who was himself, of course, one of those “few people”). ”I am sustained by Mr. Jefferson” he said, in 1858.

The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society. And yet they are denied, and evaded, with no small show of success. Some dashingly call them “glittering generalities” another bluntly calls them “self evident lies” and still others insidiously argue that they apply only to “superior races.” These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect—the supplanting the principles of free government . . . We must repulse them, or they will subjugate us.
This is a world of compensations and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves and, under a just God, can not long retain it.
All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.

That “abstract truth” being, of course, that all men were created equal, and that all had inalienable rights to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness. Taking his cue from the 25th chapter of the Book of Proverbs – “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” – Lincoln went on:

“The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word ‘fitly spoken’ which has proved an ‘apple of gold’ to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal or destroy the apple but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple – not the apple for the picture. So let us act, that neither picture, or apple, shall ever be blurred, or bruised, or broken.

It was Jefferson, Lincoln wrote, who realized that there was a question of God’s eternal justice wrapped up in the enslaving of any race of men, or any man, and that those who did so braved the arm of Jehovah – that when a nation thus dared the Almighty every friend of that nation had cause to dread His wrath.”
Maybe Lincoln didn’t understand what was going on as well as Paul Finkelman now does, but I regard that as unlikely.
Why is this so hard for people to see? Even if Jefferson had done nothing more than pen those words and get them inserted into the foundational document for the new country — and he did plenty more, see my paper here — declaring that principle to be a self-evident truth and at the foundation of any legitimate government was an act of political courage, not cowardice or hypocrisy, at a time when slavery was at the heart of the way of life and an economy across vast swaths of colonial America. Maybe Prof. Finkelman would have come up with a way to more quickly eliminate the institution from the new republic than Jefferson did, one that would have eliminated the horrible bloodshed of the Civil War. But nobody had such a plan, at the time – not Jefferson, not Washington, not Clay, not anyone.
Jefferson, Finkelman tells us, was not a “particularly kind” slave-master he sometimes “punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time.” And he believed that ”blacks’ ability to reason was ‘much inferior’ to whites’ and that they were “in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” So what? Really – so what? If you want to think that he was a bad guy — or even a really bad guy, with truly grievous personal faults — you’re free to do so. But to claim that that has something to do with Jefferson’s historical legacy is truly preposterous.


Was Thomas Jefferson a Plagiarist?

November 18, 2011
Media_httpwwwthemoral_jbbmp( libertarianism.org) Probably no sentence—or, in this case, fragment of a sentence—in the history of political thought has received more attention from historians and elicited more controversy than this passage from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….

Here is how this passage was originally written, in what Thomas Jefferson called his “original Rough draught” of the Declaration:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness….

On June 12, 1776, within a day of the time that Jefferson probably began writing the Declaration, George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette. This document reads, in part:

That all men are born equally free and independant, and have certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

The similarities between Mason’s document and Jefferson’s Rough Draft have led many historians to conclude that Jefferson drew from Mason while writing the Declaration. Jefferson’s biographer Dumas Malone (Jefferson the Virginian) speculates that there may have been a “direct influence,” while Pauline Maier (American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence) goes so far as to say that that Jefferson had Mason’s draft “in hand” while working on the Declaration of Independence.
Such efforts to trace to earlier sources both the ideas expressed in Jefferson’s Declaration and the particular wording he used are nothing new. Jefferson’s contemporaries engaged in the same exercise, sometimes going so far as to accuse him of plagiarism, in effect. For example, Richard Henry Lee, Jefferson’s fellow Virginian who made the original resolution for American Independence, claimed that Jefferson had copied from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.
On April 30, 1819, the Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette published a document that has become known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.  This newspaper article begins:

It is probably not known to many of our readers, that the citizens of Mecklenburg county, in this state [North Carolina], made a declaration of independence a year before Congress made theirs.

The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which was supposedly issued by a convention held in Charlotte on May 20, 1775, contains phrases that are identical to those that Jefferson used over a year later. Shortly after John Adams read a reprint of the Mecklenburg Declaration in the Essex Register (June 5, 1819), he wrote to a friend:

A few weeks ago I received an Essex Register, containing resolutions of independence by a county in North Carolina…. I was struck with so much astonishment on reading this document, that I could not help inclosing it immediately to Mr. Jefferson, who must have seen it, in the time of it, for he has copied the spirit, the sense, and the expression of it verbatim, into his Declaration.

After Jefferson read the Mecklenburg Declaration, he wrote to Adams, “I believe it spurious.” Although Adams claimed to be “entirely convinced” by Jefferson’s reasons—some of which were sound and some of which were not—his longstanding jealously of the credit that Jefferson had received for the Declaration of Independence led him to write to another correspondent:
“I could as soon believe that the dozen flowers of the Hydrangia now before my Eyes were the work of chance, as that the Mecklenburg Resolutions and Mr. Jefferson’s declaration were not derived the one from the other.”
Although Jefferson was correct—the Mecklenburg Declaration is indeed spurious—the controversy raged throughout the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century.  In the New York Review of March, 1837, a defender of the Mecklenburg Declaration, one Dr. Hawks, expressly accused Jefferson of plagiarism—and this charge has been repeated, if only implicitly, by other defenders of the “Mec Dec,” especially North Carolinians.
In Why North Carolinians Believe in the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, the transcript of a speech delivered to the Mecklenburg Historical Society on October 11, 1894, Dr. George W. Graham stated:

There is no event of the American Revolution about which more has been written than the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May 20th, 1775, and at the present time upwards of four score articles are in print concerning it. Some were prepared because the writers desired to see an account of this bold action recorded in the history of North Carolina; some because it was feared that, if the authenticity of this declaration was established, Thomas Jefferson would be proclaimed a plagiarist….

The most thorough analysis of the Mecklenburg Declaration was published in 1907 by William Henry Hoyt: The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence: A Study of Evidence Showing that the Alleged Early Declaration of Independence by Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 20, 1775, is Spurious. It is virtually impossible for any objective person to read this exhaustive refutation of the Mec Dec Myth and still believe that Thomas Jefferson was a plagiarist.
Lost causes die hard, as we see on the website for the Mecklenburg Historical Association (September 2011), which advertises a lecture by Judge Chase B. Saunders, a fifth-generation North Carolinian. His presentation, A Defense of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, is summarized as follows:

A motion for appropriate relief seeking the reexamination of the record of history by the academic community and exoneration of the drafters of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

A motion seeking the trial of UNC Professor Charles Phillips for academic misconduct in his 1853 publication, defaming the drafters and declaring the episode a fraud, for wanton negligence in conducting his research and thereby failing to meet generally accepted standards of academic research and materially deviated from said standards.

What exactly was the academic crime of Professor Charles Phillips? Well, Phillips, having examined the original documents associated with the Mecklenburg Declaration, detected fraud and forgery, and he said so in an article published in the North Carolina University Magazine (May 1853). As Phillips explained in 1858, “[A]ll the story about the 20th of May could not stand before cool and fair criticism…. To me, the assertion, or insinuation, that Jefferson ever borrowed from Mecklenburg is just ridiculous….”
(Whether overt fraud was involved in this complex story is problematic. For a useful summary of the explanation accepted by most historians today, see Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, pp. 172-74.)
In 1823, four years after the publication of the Mecklenburg Declaration, another controversy erupted — one that was precipitated by the embittered Federalist Timothy Pickering, a political enemy of Jefferson who had served as Secretary of State during the administration of John Adams. This controversy focused not on wording of the Declaration of Independence but on the originality of the ideas expressed therein.
In his Fourth of July Oration, Pickering argued that Jefferson had received too much credit for the Declaration, that many other Americans had expressed the same ideas before Jefferson wrote the document. There was nothing surprising in this effort to undermine Jefferson’s contribution, considering that it came from an ardent Federalist and old political enemy. More surprising was this passage that Pickering read from a letter he had received the previous year from John Adams:

As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained the declaration of rights and the violation of those rights in the Journals of Congress in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston, before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams.

Jefferson responded with remarkable grace to this slight by Adams, especially considering that the two men had resumed their old friendship a decade earlier, after years of political animosity. In an oft-quoted letter to James Madison (Aug. 30, 1823), Jefferson wrote:

Pickering’s observations, and Mr. Adams’ in addition, “that [the Declaration] contained no new ideas, that it is a commonplace compilation, its sentiments hacknied in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained in Otis’ pamphlet,’ may all be true. Of that I am not to be the judge…. Otis’pamphlet I never saw, and whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before.

As Jefferson explained to a correspondent in 1825, just fourteen months before his death:

Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.

After decades of studying the Declaration and the standard sources of Real (or Radical) Whig ideas, I have found no compelling reasons to doubt Jefferson’s claim that he “turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing” the Declaration, and that it was not “copied from any particular and previous writing.” My reasons will be presented in my next essay; but before concluding this essay, I wish to comment briefly on another theory of the Declaration that qualifies as a cult favorite.
In 1966, during my third year of high school, I read a book titled Thomas Paine, Author of the Declaration of Independence (1947). The author, American freethinker Joseph Lewis, presented what appeared to be an impressive array of facts and arguments to support the thesis that Thomas Paine, not Thomas Jefferson, was the real author of the Declaration (or at least most of it).
Puzzled by what I had read, I took the book to school, showed it to my American history teacher, and solicited his opinion. He showed considerable interest and asked to borrow the book.
I never saw the book again. According to my teacher, it mysteriously disappeared from the teachers’ lounge after he left it there overnight. I got five dollars for my loss, which was twice what I had originally paid, but I never quite believed his story. I suspected my teacher overpaid me out of guilt, because he wanted to keep the book for himself.
By the time I read Lewis’s book, I had been reading books by and about Thomas Paine for nearly two years. I knew that Paine had been denigrated because of his authorship of Age of Reason—Theodore Roosevelt, for example, called Paine “that filthy little atheist,” even though Paine, a deist, attacked atheism in Age of Reason  — and I shared the desire of many freethinkers to see Paine restored to his rightful place in American history.
But Lewis’s thesis, if true, would mean that Thomas Jefferson, who explicitly claimed authorship, and who, in his own epitaph, listed the Declaration as one of the three achievements for which he wished to be remembered, was one of the biggest liars in American history. It would also mean that Thomas Paine, who never so much as hinted at any connection with the Declaration, was one of the most modest figures in American history. It is difficult to say which assumption is more unbelievable.
Some years later I obtained another copy of Thomas Paine, Author of the Declaration of Independence and read it again. By that time I knew quite a bit about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration, so what had previously seemed like a plausible case now struck me as a string of incorrect assertions and unsubstantiated speculations.
I subsequently learned that most of the arguments by Lewis had been circulating for at least a century before his book was published in 1947. The claim that Paine wrote the Declaration goes back at least to the mid-nineteenth century; the standard arguments were repeated time and again in books published by Peter Eckler, The Truth Seeker, and other freethought publishers. It was even given some credibility, if in a scaled-down version, by Moncure Conway in his excellent two-volume Life of Thomas Paine (1892).
My early exposure to the Thomas Paine Thesis taught me a valuable lesson, namely, that historical quackery is more common than one might think, and that books on history should always be read with a critical eye.


ReAnalysis: HuffPo piece written about Islam and the State

May 26, 2011
catch this… Jefferson’s jurisdiction and limitation to government… i.e. many people is the equivalent to the self and “personal responsibility”? This is the argument here that we should tolerate the practice of Jihad and Islam? It can not make the distinction between the state and the individual.

As Jefferson wrote in 1802, “religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

Jefferson could have been paraphrasing chapter and verse of the Qur’an, like 6:94 and 164, 7:39, 17:15, 18:35, 19:95, 35:18, and many others which all emphatically confirm the individual personal responsibility of every Muslim for what she or he does or fail to do. All founding scholars of Islam agree that no act has any religious value unless done freely and without any coercion.

Just as Jefferson believed that the newly formed United States should not be a Christian state, for Muslims the notion that the state can be Islamic is false from a religious point of view, and has no support in 15 centuries of Islamic history. It is true that Muslims everywhere, whether minorities or majorities, are bound to observe Shari’a as a matter of religious obligation. Some practices are collective in form, but always individual in substance. Any observance of Shari’a can be best achieved when the state is neutral regarding all religious doctrines. Enforcing a Shari’a through coercive power of the state negates its religious nature, because Muslims would be observing the law of the state and not freely performing their religious obligation as Muslims.

I didn’t get it either. Besides disagreeing… it leads me to see some interesting characterizations of the writer and his faith.

Reminder:What Thomas Jefferson learned from the Muslim book of jihad

June 8, 2010

Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
January 2007(first post)
Democrat Keith Ellison is now officially the first Muslim United States congressman. True to his pledge, he placed his hand on the Quran, the Muslim book of jihad and pledged his allegiance to the United States during his ceremonial swearing-in.
Capitol Hill staff said Ellison’s swearing-in photo opportunity drew more media than they had ever seen in the history of the U.S. House. Ellison represents the 5th
Congressional District of Minnesota.

The Quran Ellison used was no ordinary book. It once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and one of America’s founding fathers. Ellison borrowed it from the Rare Book Section of the Library of Congress. It was one of the 6,500 Jefferson books archived in the library.
Ellison, who was born in Detroit and converted to Islam while in college, said he chose to use Jefferson’s Quran because it showed that “a visionary like Jefferson” believed that wisdom could be gleaned from many sources.
There is no doubt Ellison was right about Jefferson believing wisdom could be “gleaned” from the Muslim Quran. At the time Jefferson owned the book, he needed to know everything possible about Muslims because he was about to advocate war against the Islamic “Barbary” states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli.
Ellison’s use of Jefferson’s Quran as a prop illuminates a subject once well-known in the history of the United States, but, which today, is mostly forgotten – the Muslim pirate slavers who over many centuries enslaved millions of Africans and tens of thousands of Christian Europeans and Americans in the Islamic “Barbary” states.
Over the course of 10 centuries, Muslim pirates cruised the African and Mediterranean coastline, pillaging villages and seizing slaves.
The taking of slaves in pre-dawn raids on unsuspecting coastal villages had a high casualty rate. It was typical of Muslim raiders to kill off as many of the “non-Muslim” older men and women as possible so the preferred “booty” of only young women and children could be collected.
Young non-Muslim women were targeted because of their value as concubines in Islamic markets. Islamic law provides for the sexual interests of Muslim men by allowing them to take as many as four wives at one time and to have as many concubines as their fortunes allow.
Boys, as young as 9 or 10 years old, were often mutilated to create eunuchs who would bring higher prices in the slave markets of the Middle East. Muslim slave traders created “eunuch stations” along major African slave routes so the necessary surgery could be performed. It was estimated that only a small number of the boys subjected to the mutilation survived after the surgery.
When American colonists rebelled against British rule in 1776, American merchant ships lost Royal Navy protection. With no American Navy for protection, American ships were attacked and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the “Dey of Algiers”–an Islamist warlord ruling Algeria.
Because American commerce in the Mediterranean was being destroyed by the pirates, the Continental Congress agreed in 1784 to negotiate treaties with the four Barbary States. Congress appointed a special commission consisting of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, to oversee the negotiations.
Lacking the ability to protect its merchant ships in the Mediterranean, the new America government tried to appease the Muslim slavers by agreeing to pay tribute and ransoms in order to retrieve seized American ships and buy the freedom of enslaved sailors.
Adams argued in favor of paying tribute as the cheapest way to get American commerce in the Mediterranean moving again. Jefferson was opposed. He believed there would be no end to the demands for tribute and wanted matters settled “through the medium of war.” He proposed a league of trading nations to force an end to Muslim piracy.
In 1786, Jefferson, then the American ambassador to France, and Adams, then the American ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the “Dey of Algiers” ambassador to Britain.
The Americans wanted to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote to appease.
During the meeting Jefferson and Adams asked the Dey’s ambassador why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.
In a later meeting with the American Congress, the two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that Islam “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
For the following 15 years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to 20 percent of United States government annual revenues in 1800.
Not long after Jefferson’s inauguration as president in 1801, he dispatched a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean, and informed Congress.
Declaring that America was going to spend “millions for defense but not one cent for tribute,” Jefferson pressed the issue by deploying American Marines and many of America’s best warships to the Muslim Barbary Coast.
The USS Constitution, USS Constellation, USS Philadelphia, USS Chesapeake, USS Argus, USS Syren and USS Intrepid all saw action.
In 1805, American Marines marched across the dessert from Egypt into Tripolitania, forcing the surrender of Tripoli and the freeing of all American slaves.
During the Jefferson administration, the Muslim Barbary States, crumbling as a result of intense American naval bombardment and on shore raids by Marines, finally officially agreed to abandon slavery and piracy.
Jefferson’s victory over the Muslims lives on today in the Marine Hymn, with the line, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land as on the sea.”
It wasn’t until 1815 that the problem was fully settled by the total defeat of all the Muslim slave trading pirates.
Jefferson had been right. The “medium of war” was the only way to put an end to the Muslim problem. Mr. Ellison was right about Jefferson. He was a “visionary” wise enough to read and learn about the enemy from their own Muslim book of jihad.